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Full Online Book HomeShort StoriesThe Pole-men
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The Pole-men Post by :storian Category :Short Stories Author :William John Hopkins Date :May 2011 Read :3102

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The Pole-men

Once upon a time there was a little boy, and he was almost five years old, and his name was David. And there weren't any other children near for him to play with, so he used to play happily all by himself.

He had his cat and his cart and his shovel and his hoe, and he always wore his overalls when he was playing.

One morning he had just started to wander along the road toward the corner of the next street.

He wasn't allowed to go beyond that corner, but he could look and see what was coming, and perhaps he could see the postman and the black dog.

His cat was walking along beside him, looking up into his face, and he was dragging his cart, with his shovel and his hoe rattling in the bottom of it, for he might want to play in the sand of the gutter.

But before he got more than halfway to the corner, he heard a great rattling and shouting, and two horses came around the corner.

They made a very wide turn, because they were dragging a wagon, and behind that came two great logs which looked like trees, except that they were all smoothed off.

And David wondered where the other ends of the logs were, for he couldn't see anything but logs coming around the corner.

Then came a pair of strong wheels that the logs rested upon, and presently there were the other ends of the logs, and David knew that the logs were either telephone poles or electric light poles, for he had seen a great many of both kinds.

There was a man driving, and two other men, and they had some other smaller poles and some shovels in the wagon.

David stopped short, and his cat stopped, and they watched the wagon, with the poles behind it, go slowly down the road until it had got a little way beyond his house.

Then it stopped, and the men jumped out, and they began to look up in the air.

David wondered why they were doing that. He wondered so much that he walked along, with his cat walking beside him and his cart coming after, to ask the men.

But before he got near enough to them to ask, they had stopped looking up in the air, and they talked to each other, and David knew by what they said that they had been looking to see where the telephone line to his house stopped.

Then they started the horses, and the men walked beside them, and they walked about as far as a big boy could throw a stone, and there they stopped.

And the men undid the ropes from the long logs, and they rolled one of them to one side and tipped it so that its big end was on the ground, and they tied the ropes on to the other log again.

Then they got two of the smaller poles from the wagon, and they held up the small end of the log with the small poles; and the wagon started and the wheels went out from under the log and left it.

Then the men took away the small poles and the log fell upon the ground, and it made a big booming noise as it fell.

The other log was unloaded in the same way not far from the corner of the new house, and they led the horses to a tree and tied them; and they took the shovels and all the little poles and the other things out of the wagon.

The shovels were strange-looking things, with long, straight handles and queer blades, more like long mustard-spoons than shovels; and the little poles had sharp spikes in the ends, and some of the poles were not much longer than clothes-poles, and some were a great deal longer; and there were two sharp-pointed iron bars.

The men took all their things to the place where the first pole lay on the ground, and two of them took bars and the other took one of the shovels.

And the men with the bars stuck them into the ground and loosened the dirt, and the other man scooped out the dirt with his big mustard-spoon. Then some more dirt was loosened and that was scooped out with the shovel.

The hole that they were digging was not much bigger around than the end of the pole which would go into it.

The hole kept getting deeper, so that a common shovel wouldn't have got up any dirt at all; but the man with the mustard-spoon shovel just gave it a little twist, and lifted it out with dirt in it.

Pretty soon they had the hole dug deep enough.

It was so deep that, if a man could have stood on the bottom of it, he could have just seen out, if he stood on his tiptoes.

But only a slim man could have got into the hole. A fat man would have stuck fast as soon as his legs were in.

Then the men put down their bars and the shovel, and got the little poles, and went where the long log lay.

And they rolled it over with bars which were something like tongs, except that they had only one handle; and they rolled it until the big end of the log was just over the hole.

Then they took the shortest small poles with spikes in the ends, and they put them where they could reach them quickly.

And they all took hold of the end of the log and lifted it as high as they could reach; and one of the men reached out quickly for his spike pole, while the other two men held the log, and he jabbed the spike hard into the log and held it while another man got his spike pole and jabbed the spike hard into the log.

Then the third man jabbed the spike of his pole in, and they all lifted together, and the butt end of the log slipped a little way into the hole.

It couldn't go all the way to the bottom, because the big pole wasn't up far enough yet, and the butt end struck the side of the hole.

Then they got longer spike poles, one man at a time, and they lifted again, and the big pole slipped a little farther down into the hole.

And one of the men jabbed his spike pole in at another place, and then the other men did, and they lifted again, and the big pole went _thump!_ on the bottom of the hole.

And the men left their spike poles sticking in, all around, and jammed the other ends into the ground to hold the big pole up straight while they filled in the dirt around it.

David had been watching the men all the time, but he was careful not to get near, because he had seen how the big pole bounced around when it was unloaded.

His cat was not so careful, and she was almost hit by one of the spike poles when the man threw it down, and she scampered home as fast as she could go.

But David didn't pay any attention to her, and the men were too busy to notice.

When the dirt was pounded hard around the pole, the men took up their things, and walked along to the place where they had unloaded the other pole; and David walked along, too, dragging his cart.

He would have liked to take some of the things in his cart, but they were all too big, for he asked one of the men.

And the man looked at his cart, and he looked at David, and he laughed and shook his head.

"But you be very careful not to get too near," he said. "If the pole should get away from us, there's no knowing what it would do."

"Yes," said David. "I was careful."

"So you were," the man said. "You do the same way while we set this pole."

So the men set the other pole, and David stood a long way off.

He stood so far off that he couldn't see very well, and when the men had the pole straight up in the air, he wandered over to the wagon and tried to see if anything else was in it.

The backboard was up and he couldn't see inside at all, but he saw the wheels that the poles had come on, and he thought he would try to shin up on them and look in.

So he put his arms around the axle and tried to get one leg over; but as soon as he took his foot off the ground, the wheels began to go. He put his foot down again and made the wheels go faster, hanging on to the axle with his arms and paddling on the ground with his feet, for the ground sloped a little.

And when the wheels had rolled gently down to the lowest part of the road, they stopped and David couldn't make them go any more, even when he pushed as hard as he could.

But the men had got through setting the pole, and they were going over to the wagon when David rolled down the road and couldn't get back.

And they all went where he was, and one of them pushed on the axle, and David pushed, and the wheels rolled back again to the wagon.

And the men let down the backboard, and they put in all their things: all their poles and the bars and the shovel.

Then they took out a big coil of something that looked like rubber tubing which was wound on a great wooden spool.

The spool was as big around as David's body, and the stuff that looked like rubber tubing looked all twisty, as if there were two pieces twisted together.

David wanted very much to know what it was. He didn't like to ask, but the man who had it saw that he was looking at it very hard.

"Do you know what that is?" he asked, smiling at David.

David shook his head.

"Is it a little hose?"

"No, it's wire, and the wire is covered with that black rubbery stuff. See, here are the ends."

He found the ends of the wire and showed them to David. There were two bright ends of copper wire, and they peeped out of the black rubber covering.

"There are two of them, you see, and they are twisted together."

David nodded, but he didn't say anything.

The other men were buckling on to their legs some iron spurs, or climbers, just like those the tree men had.

And when they had their climbers buckled on, they took a little coil of rope and some queer little wooden things and a big hammer, and they went to the nearest pole.

One of the men walked right up this pole, and when he got nearly to the top, he put a big strap around his waist and around the pole, and buckled it, so that it held him to the pole, not tight up against it, but loosely so that he could use his hands.

Then he took one of the wooden things that was sticking out of his pocket, and he took his hammer from his belt, and he nailed the wooden thing to the pole. And the coil of rope was hanging at his belt; and he took it off, and he undid it, and let one end drop down to the ground.

The man who was standing there tied on a big lump of glass, and the man on the pole pulled it up, and untied it, and screwed it on the top of the wooden pin that he had just nailed on. Then he dropped his rope and came down the pole.

And he walked along until he came to the pole in front of David's house, and he walked right up that pole.

(Illustration: HE WALKED RIGHT UP THAT POLE)

Then he let down one end of his rope, and the man on the ground tied it to the end of the twisted wires, and the man on the pole pulled them up, and the spool turned over and the wires unwound as the ends went up the pole.

David couldn't see what the man on the pole did with the ends of the wires, but he fastened them somehow to the wires that were there already, and then he came down.

And the man on the ground put a short stick through the hole in the middle of the spool, and he took hold of one end of the stick and the man who had just come down from the pole took hold of the other end, and they walked along, and the hanging wire began to get tight, and the spool began to turn around as they walked, and the wire lay on the ground behind them.

And they walked past the two new poles and to the corner of the new house; and they put the spool down on the ground.

Almost all the wire had unwound from the spool.

The other man had been doing what had to be done at the second pole: nailing on the wooden thing and putting the glass on.

Then he had taken a ladder to the corner of the house, and he had fastened some things for the wire to go through, up the corner of the house to the eaves.

Then he came down the ladder, and all the men walked back together.

The first man walked up his pole again and waited.

And the second man walked up his pole, and let down the end of the rope.

And the man on the ground tied it to the wire, and the man on the pole pulled it up, and the wire hung in the air between him and David's house.

Then the man on the ground walked along to the next pole, and he tied the man's rope to the wire and _he_ pulled it up.

And the man on the ground walked along to the corner of the new house, and he took hold of the wire there, and went up the ladder with it, and the wire was hanging in the air all the way from the new house to David's house, but it rested on the two poles between.

Then the men all pulled the wire as tight as it ought to be, and they fastened it to the poles and to the house, just the way it belonged, and they made it go down the corner of the house, and they cut it off at the bottom and left the ends sticking out.

Some other men would come and put wires inside the house, and those other men would put the telephone in so that people could talk with each other when they were far apart.

Then the pole men came down from their poles and the ladder, and they gathered up all their things and put them into the wagon.

And they took off their climbers and put them into the wagon, and they tied the wheels on behind, so that they would drag after the wagon.

And they untied the horses and they all got in, and they drove away, with all their six wheels rattling, and they left David looking after them.

But before they had got far one of the men turned and saw David looking after them, and he saw his cat; and he waved his hand to David, and he waved it to his cat.

Of course, the cat couldn't wave her hand, but David could, and he did, and then the wagon turned the corner, and the wheels rattled after.

And David looked to see where his cart was, for he had forgotten it; and he went to the cart, and took up the handle and walked slowly home.

And that's all.


(The end)
William John Hopkins's Short Story: The Pole-Men

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